February 08, 2012

The Canadian Armed Forces: An Under-appreciated Political Tool?

Emblem of the Canadian Forces
To tell you all the truth, I've been wanting to write about this for quite some time. But, I have been waiting for an appropriate news article to surface addressing the same issue to back up my opinions. The good news: I found one!

According to Matt Gurney's February 7th article in the National Post, the Canadian Armed Forces have been what amounts to a political tool since the Harper Conservatives took power for the first time in 2006. Although this may sound ridiculous, even ludicrous to some, take a moment to look at how this could actually be the case. AND above all, look at how we as a country, may be one of the few in world able to pull it off.

First off, as Mr. Gurney mentions in his article, Canada's per capita spending on the military is significantly lower than even Australia, a nation that has both a smaller population and a smaller GDP. In order for us to match the per capita spending of Australia, we would have to bring our annual armed forces spending from ~$22 billion to around $35-40 billion. This is something that won't likely happen in the near future, if ever. Now...let me tell you why.

You see, Canada is a very unique country in the sense that we don't really require a military capable of the same deployment as many other nations throughout the world. The reason: our neighbour to the south, the United States. It has, all throughout modern times, been necessary for the USA to ensure the safety and security of the entire North American continent. This need has allowed post-WWII Canada to languish in the size of its military and the federal government's monetary commitment to the same. Further, let's be totally honest with each other here: we're not about to break off friendly relations with the United States, so we need not worry!

Or do we...?

No...no I will not resort to fear mongering and conspiracy theories about the eventual military takeover the United States will embark upon here in our great nation!

More realistically, I personally believe that we need to be at least self-sufficient when it comes to defending our borders. In order to be secure in that task, spending will have to be greatly increased on the part of the federal government. But, do I think it will happen in the near future? NO!

My reasoning isn't all that complicated, but it does reaffirm Matt Gurney's statement that military spending is not more than a political tool. You see, despite the fact that the Harper Conservatives have taken the pro-military stance in comparison to the other federal parties, our Prime Minister is in quite a unique situation when it comes to being able to fund that very institution.

In the aftermath of the "Great Recession" the Harper government has committed to austerity measures that will bring the deficit back in line and bring the federal government from the red back into the black. Increasing military spending by any great deal while cutting other services and departments would be the closest thing to political suicide Mr. Harper could do thus far in his time in office. Just take the F-35 fighter jet controversy as a clear example!

We, as a nation, have not recently had to defend ourselves in any serious manner. Thus, we have developed what seems to be a culture of entitlement. Why should we have to increase funding to our military when the United States is there in case the sh** hits the fan?

The reality is, folks, that we will eventually be called upon to defend ourselves once again. It may not be soon, and it may not even be on the same scale as the two World Wars, but it certainly will happen again.

And so long as the military is being used as a political, vote-getting tool up on Parliament Hill, these changes won't happen.

But, as with everything else, the whole situation is a complicated slurry of contradictions and consequences...

Let's just hope that the economy gets back on track so that we can start allocating funds where they need to go once again.

The military should certainly make the short-list for any future funding. Let's face it, without our men and women in uniform, we're naught but sitting ducks. In the post-Afghanistan domestic landscape, let's make sure our military is not forgotten and left to rust out from the inside.

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